Indigenous Education: the Center Piece of the Barbara Drake Collection

There are so many elements and materials that Barbara Drake donated to The Claremont Colleges, those of us archiving can sometimes lose sight of the specifics. Until this week, I hadn’t spent much time looking over the primary education resources, except for when these materials were divided into subject specific categories weeks ago. However, this week when I became reacquainted with these materials, it brought to life the spirit of Indigenous education that Drake encouraged and centered in her own life.

Needless to say, Barbara was passionate about educating every age group. However, in her materials there is an unmistakable emphasis on making Indigenous education available to primary school children. Not only did Barbara travel between Southern California districts and schools, hosting workshops and interactive lessons ranging in topic from traditional Native American housing to astronomy that incorporated an Indigenous point of view. In addition to these services, she also kept a meticulous variation of Indigenous centered pedagogies and teacher’s guides. These guides inform educators on how to center Native American perspectives, beliefs and traditions in primary school lessons. These pedagogies and guides touch on topics such as Indigenous time-keeping, astronomy, language, math, music and many more.

Plainly stated, Barbara made an effort to retain education guides on how to center Indigenous voices and perspectives in just about any primary school lesson. It cannot be overstated how important these resources are. Children of Indigenous heritage are rarely catered to in terms of educational representation, Barbara’s materials make a serious, and much needed, attempt to correct that.

Sustainability

As my colleague and I continue to file Barbara’s materials into their designated folders, I was fortunate enough to stake my claim over filing her research on ethnobotany, plants and vegetation. As I was doing so, I couldn’t help but think of climate change. As a gen y/gen z cusp, I have known most of my life that the planet was suffering from our wanton abuses of its many resources.

This made me think about the machinations under which our elected leaders, and elected leaders abroad, stand idly by while the planet dies before our eyes. They retain no urgency. They seemingly retain no foresight. They don’t mind if the planet is in an irreversible spiral by the time we inherit it. It is not lost on me that the world will likely look different in 10, 15, or 20 years. However, by that same tenor it is not lost on me that we might continue to see our natural resources stripped away, laid barren or depleted in the name of commercialization during that same time.

Barbara, and her ancestors that came before her, put an unmistakable emphasis on plant-based skills and food, while simultaneously cataloguing geographically relevant biodiversity as they went on. One of the most valuable things I have learned from Barbara’s collection is the incredible biodiversity represented in California, and specifically Los Angeles County. It appears to me, from her materials, that Indigenous peoples have a mutual respect for the earth. They have been exceptional stewards of the earth for centuries. And yet, colonization has deprived all of us existing today of a planet in good health. Instead, the exploitative nature of our commercialized industries and agriculture have painted us into a corner where we are rapidly losing resources and garnering natural disasters. Poignantly, Barbara’s materials allow any observer to be a more careful steward of our ailing planet. In her materials, one can find plant-based recipes that incrementally contribute to a potential decrease in the demand for animal products. In her materials, one can find instructions and suggestions on how to garden, fish and hunt, allowing the reader to devise strategies for a decreased reliance on industrialized means of production.

Simply put, there’s something worth knowing in Barbara’s collection for everyone, especially environmentalists.

Dull Knife, the Cheyenne and the Pursuit of Self-Determination

What constitutes a hero? Some might be tempted to list attributes, deeds, or point to a righteous struggle in which one emerges victorious. I have come to understand that heroes are mainly subjective, and many who are heroic are not catalogued the way, or to the extent, they deserved. Many Native Americans displayed unabashed heroism when colonizers encroached on their land, families, livestock and livelihood. One of these was Dull Knife of the Northern Cheyenne Nation.

I was particularly moved by the story of Dull Knife, the Cheyenne and their hard fought struggle to remain autonomous. Dull Knife was no stranger to resistance or battle, he fought in the Cheyenne-Arapahoe War, the Sioux Wars of the Northern Plains, and fought alongside Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull during the War for the Black Hills. The Native Americans were underestimated, and after each battle they, along with their Chiefs, made their formidable posture known. As such, General George Crook coordinated a surprise attack on Dull Knife’s camp. Those who survived fled and surrendered elsewhere. Subsequently, they were forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma that touted little game, unfamiliar weather and was host to diseases.

In 1878, Dull Knife and 300 others fled, unable to bare the deplorable conditions the colonizers had provided for them. They all began a 1000 mile journey with a single step. On this journey they were forced to split up, reconfigure and eventually surrender at Ft. Robinson. A year after the death of Dull Knife, the Northern Cheyenne were granted the Tongue River Reservation in Montana.

The later years of Dull Knife’s life were marked with struggle, oppression, concealment and brutalization. He never lived to see the small consolation of a reservation, closer to their home of Wyoming, awarded to his people. Even so, he never wavered in his struggle for freedom. He never caved to the proposals of assimilation or displacement, and no matter how hard the white invaders tried, they could never scrub history of his influence or his stature. Rather, like many Native American Chiefs, his struggle casts a large shadow over society 150 years later. The shadow of his heroism, and the heroism of those like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, eclipse the American platitude of “liberty and justice for all”. When one takes the time to learn about those like Dull Knife, they are met with the duty to acknowledge that we are truly an imperfect nation, founded by imperialism. Barbara’s collection reminds me that the term “Founding Fathers” is a misnomer. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, nor the others founded this land. On the contrary, it was the ancestors of those like Dull Knife and Barbara herself who are true founders.

Dull Knife of the Northern Cheyenne
One of Barbara’s pieced of literature regarding Dull Knife

Keeping History Alive

I am happy to report that after weeks of poring through Barbara’s materials, the CCEPS team has finally divided all materials into subject-specific categories. These subject-specific categories correspond to parent thematic categories that will span the entire collection. As we move past this phase, I would like to share some key words I think encompass the spirit of this collection.

The first is historical. Barbara took incredible measures to preserve information relating to her Native American heritage. These span all types of mediums. She had newspaper clippings, magazine clippings, article print-outs, Indigenous curriculums, and many more elements. Similarly, Barbara did not only go through the trouble of preserving information regarding the Tongva/Gabrielino, she had an incredible wealth of knowledge regarding other Indigenous nations. She has information pertaining to the Sioux, Chumash, Navajo, Nez Perce, Cheyenne and many others. In other words, Barbara’s collection is useful for anyone that seeks to learn any facet of American history. There can be no true American history without the understanding of the Indigenous history that preceded it.

The second is community-oriented. Not only are the materials of the Drake collection an essential resource for anyone interested in history, they also retain great interest for those who are seeking to organize. What I’ve gleaned from Barbara’s collection is that she was an incredible organizer, her personal projects– ranging from the Chia Caf√© Collective to Preserving Our Heritage– were never free from cause, purpose or diversity. Furthermore, she took the time to retain documents (flyers, brochures, itineraries, etc.) from other sources of Indigenous community engagement. These documents serve as formidable blueprints for anyone looking for ways to mobilize or embrace their own community.

The last is representative. A common thread through the whole of the Drake collection is the elevation and centrality of Indigenous voices, perspectives and character. This representation is desperately needed in today’s society, while many underserved communities are still fighting for a seat at the table, or some measure of justice. This is one of the many reasons the value of the Drake collection can not be overstated, it embodies the perspective of a beloved Tongva elder who was diligent in the pursuit of teaching and learning about her culture.

Barbara appeared to be a life long learner, it’s apropos that her collection encourages the same.

Barbara Drake in print, covered by the press for her efforts in Native American education

What Remains

This week, my colleague and I successfully organized all of Barbara’s materials into their parent categories pertaining to research, education and Drake’s biographical materials. While sorting materials into the category pertaining to Drake herself, it was impossible not to notice what a purposeful, full and meaningful life she led. Her efforts made in the pursuit of reparations for Indigenous peoples was both wide in breadth and tangible success.

Some of the materials I was struck by surrounded the legal battle between CSULB and the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation to reinter remains found on CSULB campus property, remains consistent with the geographical and chronological ancestry of the Los Angeles Basin Native Americans. In short, in Long Beach, and other areas of Los Angeles county Indigenous remains had been found during the process of commercial development throughout the decades. During the many decades of enduring the painful displacement of ancestors, Native Americans were often required to obtain legal representation to pursue their right to reinter their ancestors. From the documents carefully preserved by Barbara, it appears this was the case for ancestors found in proximity to CSULB as well.

After a lengthy process of litigation, a portion of the ancient Indigenous village of Puvungna located on the CSULB campus, was preserved as a site of Indigenous cultural significance. As recently as 2021, the site was formally protected in perpetuity, ensuring no construction or development would ever be permitted to disturb the land again. It must be noted, that Barbara Drake, along with others in her Indigenous community placed themselves on the front lines of litigation to preserve their culture, heritage and civil liberties for generations to come. It must be dually noted that these efforts were pursued, even when local, state and federal governments had the nerve to seek to dismiss the wishes (in full or in part) of Indigenous descendants on the grounds of “lack of federal recognition”. To this, I ask, what good is “federal recognition” when the identities and existence of factions like the Gabrielino/Tonva Nation preceded the existence of the government and the United States as a whole? Barbara’s collection thus far has taught me many things I didn’t know I had to learn, and has afforded me a wider scope in which to consider history. I am confident this collection will have the same effect on anyone that interacts with its hugely significant contents.

Barbara Drake in front of the Puvungna sign

Mysteries of the Desert

As mentioned previously, due to the nature of the current phase in which we are archiving Barbara Drake’s collection, I have given myself much more freedom to engage with the specific materials. This past week, I found myself lost in the research Drake had compiled regarding ancient Indigenous history, and the artifacts that contributed to some of this understanding. Doing so, I learned a word I had never heard before– intaglio.

An intaglio, or a geoglyph, can be found prominently in the stretch of desert that connects Arizona to California. Their ancient construction resulted from the displacement of dark stones to reveal the light soil underneath, etchings that created a permanent symbol of prehistoric ancestries. According to an April 1989 issue of Arizona Highways these etchings are believed to be anywhere from 150, to 5,000 years old. Additionally, these etchings range anywhere from 20 feet in diameter, to over 150 feet. One intaglio, 75 miles west of Phoenix, measures an incredible 300 feet. These intaglios bear the resemblance of human figures, snakes, lizards, mountain lions and other geometric shapes. So, what does it all mean? Archaeologists mainly contend that these geoglyphs were intended to communicate with Native gods. The tone of communication exists on a speculative continuum ranging from praise and honor, to cries for help, imploring divine intervention to assuage the cruelty of an unrelenting and changing landscape. The aforementioned geoglyphs provide a peek into a time where the veil between spirituality and mortality might have been thinner.

These relics of a distant past, and their mystery, illustrate how much history was lost to colonialism. Not only did colonizers do their best to eradicate the powerful Native themselves, they simultaneously robbed future persons of enculturated sources for which clues to human history might exist. Due to the genocidal force that perpetuated colonialism, much of the primary, secondary or even tertiary source material regarding the spirituality of the ancient Native has been lost. Luckily, caretakers of culture and heritage, like Barbara Drake and her fellow Indigenous peoples, have preserved what is left and seek to reclaim what is yet to be discovered.

Intaglio of the Arizona desert.
“The Fisherman” (left)– a geoglyph photographed for Arizona Highways April, 1989 issue.

American History: The Unabridged Version

This week the Barbara Drake collection has undergone a sort of restructuring. Materials are being sorted into more specific categories and the collection has started to take somewhat of a shape. Due to the extensive nature of Barbara’s contribution, we are still a long way from finality. Sitting with Barbara’s materials this week, in an effort to ascribe items to subject-matter specific categories, I took more time than usual indulging the curated research.

History was always my favorite subject in primary school. I had a second grade teacher who put together a slideshow of early 1900s Los Angeles, I was transfixed by how different the world seemed. There was no Staples Center or Walt Disney Concert Hall. There was no Geffen or Phillipe’s (though depending on the year of the photos, it would be soon to come). The roads were suspiciously absent of BMWs and Honda Civics. It wasn’t until too many years later that I realized Spanish colonizers did not birth Los Angeles, as I had been told, rather the Tongva had. Just like many facets of American history, fashioned to be palatable for American children, this was yet another important fact that had been conveniently left out of the textbooks. Many years out of primary school, I can say that had I been taught the unabridged history then, it would have helped me conceptualize America’s tumultuous history much sooner. Much sooner would I have understood who rightfully owned my beloved Los Angeles. I am fortunate to be an informal student of Barbara’s materials, through which she has gracefully and posthumously educated me on the real history of America– before the Americans. This collection, for me, has highlighted the grave disservice we do to our public school children when we obfuscate such history from them. However, this collection will be a great resource for those interested in ecology, Indigenous ethnohistory, archaeology and more. With scholars like Barbara, determined to leave the world better and more informed than they found it, those who engage with her materials (and materials like hers) can facilitate an honest understanding of America’s true history.

Arizona Highway

When I was a pre-teen I devoured magazines. I used to shuffle through the mail every day, hoping to find that the month’s issue of Seventeen, Teen Vogue or Allure had arrived. I admired the art of carefully curated images around an up and coming trend, intentionally beguiling and glossy. As I returned to sorting Barbara’s collection, I was pleased to find that she too enjoyed the comfort of a magazine. However, unlike the fashion magazines from my pre-teen years, the magazines Barbara preserved were much more profound. Rather than the pages weighing in on which lip gloss shade was perfect for summer, as mine had, the magazines from the Drake collection covered topics like accessorizing an outfit with Indigenous jewelry.

Specifically, Drake had preserved many issues of Arizona Highway, a magazine that has “captured the beauty and splendor of Arizona since 1925”. As someone who has only been to Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon and Phoenix once, through the publication I was exposed to landscapes of Arizona that I had not yet seen. More importantly, much of the content Drake saved touches on the Indigenous history of the land. Many of the photos capture Indigenous landscapes and visually pay homage to the cultures that founded the areas. Through reading her materials I learned about Arizona’s rich repository of Native basket weaving, whereby the traditions of the Hopi, Apache, and others are displayed through this medium. Consequently, they are more than baskets, they are fixtures of history.

From the Earth

As the heat of Summer settled in this last week, I was able to return to the processing of Barbara Drake’s expansive collection. Most of the time I spent reacquainting myself with Barbara’s collection, was spent on a series cataloguing items relating to Native American Culture and Heritage. I spent a considerable amount of time sorting documents for corresponding subseries, including subseries that are grouped by topics such as holistic remedies and plant uses, Native American history and historical events, and traditional recipes or ingredients.

These subseries were particularly impactful for me, and indicate what a diverse educator Barbara was. The continuum of topics garnered from the aforementioned subseries alone included recipes for traditional acorn bread to Indigenous ethnohistories that recounted the use of shells in early bartering contexts. I was particularly intrigued by the traditional recipes, and how many of them were plant based. From her materials, one could assume that Barbara had an astute eye for details. Similarly, one could also gather that she was a gifted communicator. A communicator that committed herself to relaying the tenets of Native American culture with whatever tools she had available. From what I have learned about Barbara, food and traditional ingredients were tools she utilized dexterously and with genuine passion. Because of her materials, I know that nettle can make a delicious soup and that Indigenous pudding generally constitutes cornmeal as a central ingredient. However, I know that with this collection specifically, I will have much more to learn.

Specificity

I am pleased to say my semester at CGU ended on a great note. I am also pleased to say that Annette’s collection is in its’ final staged before it will be available for researchers. I thought in this post I would give a brief overview of some collection pieces that really stood out to me and why I think this collection is an excellent resource for anyone interested in fine art. One of the pieces that immediately comes to mind when I think of this collection is an interview transcript from 1977 in which Annette was being interviewed by Joan Murray for the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. In this interview she provides insight into her creative process and how she arrived at textiles as her preferred medium. Another collection piece that stood out to me were some pieces that were ostensibly used as a kind of artistic inspiration. These included vintage magazine clippings that shared an art deco theme, fabric samples that spoke to the value of abstraction and 35mm slides that catalogued the 9 months the artist spent living in Europe. The artist’s labeling indicates that this period was in the early 70’s, with the artist mainly taking residence in Spain. Though the slides indicate she may have spent some time near Istanbul, Turkey as well. Places like these, and others, captured by Annette’s artistic eye immortalize the spirit of the early 70’s. The images are unmistakably tinged with a spark of freedom and the warm comfort of nostalgia. These images are a resource for any persons interested in the visual arts. Lastly, the 35mm and photographs which bear some of Annette’s textile works and sketches are regarded as the ornate centerpiece of the collection. In these slides and photographs, the viewer can witness Annette’s evolution as an artist, the fluidity possessed through each epoch and the juxtaposed ability of the artists’ works to remain unique. Thus, it is this ‘centerpiece’ that captures the spirit of the collection as a whole.